From the Desk of the Head

Welcome to the Department of English at Sardar Patel University.

Welcome to the Department of English, Sardar Patel University!

J H Khan.jpg
Our karmabhoomi, this hallowed educational township, the portals of our university and Department, where many like me have had the privilege of studying and doing research, is a very peaceful campus. A total of thirty-four years spent so far as a member of the faculty in the Department, beginning 14 August 1982, and the last eight years as the Head of the Departmental family, have given me the privilege of being a witness to history unfolding. I remember having seen Bhaikaka in my early teens in 1969-70, and this township and our university grow from strength to strength. History, asserts Collingwood in his inimitable style, is for “human self-knowledge”, for its value lies in the fact that it tells us “what man can do” on the basis of “what man has done” and, thus, “what man is.” (R G Collingwood, The Idea of History, 1946)

This Department was established by Sardar Patel University, three years after it was duly constituted by an Act of the then Government of Bombay Province, and we were assigned the task of catering to our learners’ needs vis-à-vis advanced learning and research in English Studies. We are certainly aware of the great responsibility this entails, for the great Sardar Patel, the illustrious Iron Man of India, had stressed on the need for imparting education of the kind that would prepare future citizens of independent India, self-motivated and self-reliant, rather than creating a mass of educated youth lingering after employment. 

Beginning with Professor (Dr) K N Shah, our then Vice Chancellor during whose tenure I was I inducted into the Department as a Lecturer (Assistant Professor), I have had the privilege of serving this unique university under 8 of our 15 Vice Chancellors including our current Vice Chancellor, Professor (Dr) Shirish Kulkarni, trying to assist them to the best of my abilities as and when I was assigned to do something over and above the responsibilities in the Department. It has been a great learning experience! 

This Department has a rich history. We have learnt from this history the need to have democratic practices put in place. I can say without any fear of contradiction from any of my colleagues today that each one of us on the faculty has a say in all aspects of functioning of the Department, be it decisions with regard to policies, syllabi, down to the smallest matter on which we may need to take a decision, with the sole exception of administrative matters in emergencies where decisions have to be made on-the-spot. However, in doing so, we have taken every care to ensure that our policies conform to the overall policies of the university. We have been completely transparent in our functioning and in taking full responsibility for whatever we have been able to do all these years and honest in accepting areas in which our effort has yet to bear fruit. 

The Department today offers MA (Full-time), MPhil (Full-time) and PhD degree (Full-time/Part-time) programmes in broad areas of specialisations within English Studies. English Studies is a discipline within a specialism called English which pursues academic knowledge. Such knowledge presumes the scholarly and the theoretical rather than practical and that is why many of our literary theories cannot be applied to the study of a literary text beyond a few sentences or a paragraph. We live in times wherein practical relevance is an important point of reference since the sciences have established it for us. However, this is what English Studies was found lacking for a long time. This led to the inclusion of many sub-disciplines within English Studies, which have developed practical applications and grown in importance. Thus, English Studies have had a fascinating history.

English studies was taken to be synonymous with English Literature for centuries together before differences developed among scholars on the question of relevance of teaching English literature and language between 1880 and 1900. One school of thought favoured the retention of the teaching of literature as the source of aesthetic delight and moral renewal, and another school had specialist concerns about it as an academic subject. Anthony Kerney (1988) identifies this as ‘the first crisis in English studies’ (British Journal of Educational Studies, Vol.36, No.3, Oct., 1988, pp. 260-268), leading to a bipartite division of the discipline, but with agreement on the retention of mother English. English Studies split vertically into two distinct areas: English Literature and English Language. One obvious reason for this was the effort to philology with its origins in Greek antiquity into what was called general linguistics in the decade of the 1940s, and linguistics, or the scientific study of language, opened newer vistas not only within language education but also in literary studies as a part of English Studies. 

A further major shift in concerns followed in the wake of the historical developments that led to the emphasis on communication and communicology on the one hand and postcolonial writings on the other in the 1970s. Communication and communicology started gaining ground in the decade of the 1960s and by the 1970s leading to the development of what was called communicative English, a variant of which was later renamed as functional English. Communicative English, based as it was on the Wilkinsian model of notions and functions, created the space for the development of English for Specific Purposes and English for Specific Academic Purposes. Alongside this, creative writing, English oracy, transcreation of region-specific folklore in English etc gradually began to gain respectability. The one-time colonies got down to the daunting task of redefining their own linguistic and literary output in English making a conscious attempt to use the local idiom and structures in English. Our postcolonial literatures owe themselves to this paradigmatic shift. English gradually started acquiring an international profile, giving birth to new literatures in English as a replacement for commonwealth literature. 

Language being a product of culture, translation studies and cultural studies became important. Linguistic and Literary Studies within English Studies are no longer restricted to English Literature in the sense of British Literature but have begun to embrace American Literature, African Literature, Afro-Asian Literature, Australian Literature, Canadian Literature, Caribbean Literature, Indian English Literature etc. Similarly, phonetics and phonology, syntax and government, morphology and morphophonemics, semiotics and semantics, linguistic and/or literary pragmatics, linguistic and/or literary stylistics etc on the one hand, and discourse analysis, text linguistics, the history of the language, language teaching etc have come under this umbrella term ‘English Studies’. 

Other emerging areas today include oriental literary theories, oriental literary criticism, creative writing, gender studies, ethnic studies and ethnography, feminist linguistics, feminist theories and/or poetics, feminist literature and studies, LGBT studies, science fiction, cultural studies, literature of protest and resistance, popular literature, tribal studies, diaspora studies, Dalit studies etc. The list continues to grow longer with the addition of newer areas at regular intervals. English Studies have, thus, far ceased to symbolize British hegemony, but represent the aspirations of the people in former British colonies through postcolonial and other literatures.

Welcome to the Department of English at Sardar Patel University.

The recognition of English as an international language has changed the complexity of English language and literature. The introduction of computer and software programmes like Microsoft Word created further space for the availability of several alternatives in the choice of varieties of English under its language option: English (UK), English (USA), English (Australia), English (Canada), English (Caribbean), English (India), English (New Zealand), English (Singapore), English (South Africa) etc. The availability of these varieties in English implies in many ways that English no longer belongs to the native speakers of English but to all its users the world over, irrespective of their native or non-native categorisation. These variations within English have yielded and continue to yield an output that is comparable if not better than some of the best texts written by native speakers of English. 

English is no longer the language of the native English but of the users of English the world over, and most of these are individuals who may not necessarily be English by birth. There is change all around. ‘Commonwealth Literature’ stands renamed today as ‘New Literatures’. The British colonies of yesteryears have become independent and have begun promoting their own literatures written in English. This has led to the popularity of postcolonial literatures. 

All these developments have opened newer areas for researchers to investigate and negotiate. The impact of researches carried the world over is evident even in the area of English Studies wherein all areas within core and applied linguistics: phonetics, phonology, syntax, morphology, semantics, pragmatics, stylistics etc on the one hand, and discourse analysis, text linguistics, the history of the language, language teaching etc in English on the other have come under a single umbrella. 

English studies is an omnibus term embracing within itself even other areas like western literary theory, western literary criticism, creative writing, gender studies, ethnic studies etc, and since all of these are in English, the list gets longer with the addition of newer areas at regular intervals.

We are proud of being one of the major departments of our university. We are grateful to God that such a perception is also shared by our peers, both within the university and outside, and our stakeholders. This is the reason for our perseverance in pursuit of excellence. We have always believed in taking challenges head on, and this provides us with the motivation to keep improving all the time. 

We derive a lot of satisfaction from the fact that we have had the privilege of organising and hosting major academic events like the 32nd All India Teachers’ Conference in December 1981 and 57th All India English Teachers’ Conference in December 2012; 3 UGC-Sponsored Summer Institutes in English Language Teaching in 1985-1987 including an Advanced Summer Institute; 5 UGC-sponsored Refresher Courses in English: one in 1993 and the rest between 2000 and 2002; 18 National and State Level Seminars; 3 State level symposia; and 8 State and National Level Workshops and Round tables between December 1981 and March 2014. 

In addition to all these, we have been able to produce three edited course-books, one in the late 1960s, and two in 1990s through the deliberations in various workshops. The Department has also published two monographs under Phase-I of the UGC SAP-DRS, and has completed successfully more than four UGC-funded minor and major research projects. We are grateful to the UGC for having recognised the achievements of the Department by awarding us two successive phases of the Department of Research Support (DRS) award under the Special Assistance Programme (SAP): Phase-I between 1 April 2004 and 31 March 2009, and Phase-II from 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2014.

Our teachers and researchers have not remained complacent in the meanwhile. They have been presenting learned papers at state, national and international seminars, symposia etc. We have a good track record in research publications, with our teachers and researchers publishing research papers in prestigious journals and books. Our teachers have guided numerous researchers successfully, leading to the award of MPhil and PhD degrees. Some of our important PhD holders include Dr (Ms) Armaity Davar, Dr A Abraham, Dr Yogesh Hathi, Dr A S Khan, Dr Ramakant Joshi, Dr (Mrs) Manjuben K Patel, Dr Salim Varghese, Dr A J Jose etc. All this has been our modest contribution in the 58 years of our existence as a University Department.

We feel grateful to God that we have been rewarded amply. Some of our alumni today adorn high offices in the state administrative set-up; the print and electronic media; the Indian army; but a majority of them are teachers in institutions of higher learning, in colleges affiliated to this university or its sister universities in Gujarat and a few in Maharashtra. Some of them occupy teaching positions at various levels in Departments of English in Universities across Gujarat: 7 in Charotar University of Science and Technology, Changa; 4 in Sardar Patel University, Vallabh Vidyanagar; 3 in Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, Surat; 3 in Anand Agriculture University, Anand; 4 in Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara; 1 in Dharmendrasinh Desai University, Nadiad; 1 in Navsari Agriculture University, Navsari; and 1 in Sardar Krushinagar Agriculture University, Palanpur. 1 of our alumni was a Project Fellow under UGC SAP-DRS-II in the Department of English, Sardar Patel University, Vallabh Vidyanagar up to 31 March 2014. This is but only a sample. More details would be available from the ‘Alumni’ section on these webpages. 

The Department is grateful to all of its alumni for having brought us a good name. Unfortunately, there are many more whose current positions and institutional affiliations are not known at the moment. Also, we do not have a complete list of our numerous alumni working as teachers of English at the school level. We appeal to them to get in touch with us and help us update the list.

We have been able to reach where we have due to the purushartha of all our teachers and colleagues who preceded us. Some of our senior colleagues, under whom some others amongst us had the privilege of studying and working, have already superannuated after rendering illustrious services to the Department for years together. We applaud their significant contribution and pray to God to give them health, wealth, happiness and prosperity in the remaining part of their worldly lives. Unfortunately, we lost the first two such beloved seniors, Professor R A Dave in 2011 and Professor K D Kurtkoti in 2003. May God rest their noble soul in eternal peace!

All our senior teacher-colleagues who have since superannuated have set for us such high benchmarks in teaching, learning, and research that we have had to set for ourselves and reach new goals in order to retain our position in the system. The current members on the faculty in the Department are doing their very best to fulfil the expectations of the society, and to face newer challenges successfully. We have been second to none in participating wholeheartedly in adapting and implementing numerous initiatives mandated by the UGC, the Government of Gujarat, and the university like, for example, the introduction of semester system, the choice based credit system (CBCS), grading system in evaluation etc. We draw satisfaction from the fact that we have been able to take up and accomplish all the tasks that either came our way or were given to us, with a fair degree of commitment and dedication. However, we do know that it would be rather naïve to rest on our laurels. 

We live in a world where self-appraisals have become a norm. We have always believed that such appraisals, especially with regard to any contribution that we might have made, or believe to have been able to make to the creation of new knowledge or to any addition to it, is better left to our peers, sister institutions, our students, and the institutions employing our alumni. Self-certification would be sheer vanity. We rest content in our belief that trying to do good and doing good are in themselves the reward of our karma as propounded by Sri Krishna in The Bhagvadgita, and adopted by the founders of this University and the educational township in creating our logo: “karmany eva ’dhikaraste” (ma phalesu kadacana) (II.47): “To action alone hast thou a right (and never at all to its fruits).” (Trans. S Radhakrishnan, The Bhagvadgita, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1948, p.119) 

We thank the UGC, the state government, the university, local population, media, students, fellow teachers elsewhere, and sister institutions both within and outside our university for placing their trust and confidence in us. We feel quite humble indeed! It is this trust and confidence that keeps boosting our spirits and spurs us on. However, we do count on receiving your constructive feedback from time to time and your continued support in our work so that we measure up to your expectations. 

We extend to you and all those who share our ethos a warm invitation to join hands with us in working towards a better future not only for ourselves but also for the generations that follow, our learners, who are the raison d’être of our existence.

Vallabh Vidyanagar                                                                                                  J H Khan
18 October 2016